Tuesday 28 February 2023

Book Review: Snowy Mountains Promise by Alissa Callen

 Snowy Mountains Promise


Alissa Callen

A town scandal. A kelpie chaperone. A winter ball.
The bush telegraph has never had so much to talk about.....
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 1st February 2023
Series: Bundilla #3
Genre: Rural Romance
Pages: 370
RRP: $29.99AU Paperback
Source: Uncorrected proof courtesy of the publisher

My review of Snowy Mountains Promise

I know when I pick up a book by Alissa Callen I am in for a treat and Snowy Mountains Promise was no exception.
I loved being back in the town of Bundilla! Bundy the dog has been shadowing Taite lately and everyone in town knows when Bundy is around change is in the air, and it just so happens Brenna's friend Hettie is also in town. ( For those that haven't read Alissa's books, Bundy is the town's dog he belongs to nobody and everybody. He knows exactly who needs him and is known to do a bit of matchmaking himself).
Taite and Hettie are both introverts and whilst Taite is holding on to deep hurt over his father's death, Hettie is not going to push herself on Taite when he is, obviously, not interested. This makes for a very angsty romance, which isn't usually my thing, but Callen makes it more compelling by adding a crime mystery element and a long held secret that Hettie is determined to uncover.
The books can be read alone but you will get such a thrill when you read them in publication order and characters you've grown to love pop up in subsequent books.
Both the rural setting and characters of Snowy Mountains Promise are delightfully portrayed with everyday snippets of farming and social life along with the matchmaking attempts of the women's quilting club and the humour of the men ribbing each other over this fact. 
In Snowy Mountains Promise Alissa Callen picks you up and places you right in the centre of this small-town community enveloping you in the warmth and welcome of her characters. 
My rating 5/5    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author
When USA Today bestselling author Alissa Callen isn't writing, she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who believes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. She is partial to autumn colours, snowy peaks and historic homesteads and will drive hours to see an open garden. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. She draws inspiration from the countryside around her, whether it be the brown snake at her back door or the resilience of bush communities in times of drought or flood. Her books are characteristically heartwarming, authentic and character driven. Alissa lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western NSW.
Other books I've read by Alissa Callen

Book Review: I Belong to No One by Gwen Wilson

 I Belong to No One


Gwen Wilson

Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication day: 1st January 2015
Genre: Non Fiction / Memoir
Pages: 314
Source: Own purchase

My review of I Belong to No One

I found Gwen Wilson's memoir riveting. The writing flowed well making it an easy read. However, I didn't think the life she portrays in the book was that harrowing, or much different to any low socioeconomic families of that era.

Brought up by a single mother with mental health problems Gwen explains how neighbours and family often took her in. She was an intelligent and fiery young girl who wasn't afraid of hard work.
I few bad decisions and a stubborn personality sees Gwen hit rock bottom; pregnant and unemployed.

I Belong to No One is heart-wrenching in its reading. Although the author has spared her readers the graphic details of abuse she still manages to clearly portray the injustices and inequality suffered by women in the 70's.
Wilson is an inspiration to all in the way she turned her life around, offered forgiveness and moved forward.

My rating 3/5         ⭐⭐⭐

About the author (from the front of the book)

Gwen Wilson started writing her memoir in her fifties. Essentially self-educated, Gwen worked as a motel receptionist, dental nurse and switchboard operator until at nineteen, in the exciting days of the pre-container era, a chance opportunity saw her land a role in customs clearance on the male-dominated Port Adelaide waterfront. A stable marriage and a successful career in shipping and logistics followed until she retired, after which Gwen entered university for the first time and now holds a Master's degree in Electronic Commerce. Gwen and husband Bill live in Wollongong, New South Wales.

Challenges: Mount TBR challenge (on my shelf since October 2015)
                    Non Fiction readers challenge (memoir)

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Book Review: Taken by Dinuka McKenzie



Dinuka McKenzie

Detective Kate Miles #2

Publisher: Harper Collins Aus
Publication date: 1st February 2023
Series: Det. Kate Miles #2 

Genre: Crime / Mystery

Pages: 327

Source: Netgalley

My review of Taken

Just what I needed, I finished it in two days! Taken is a fabulous read that kept me glued to the pages. 

A young baby goes missing a Det Kate Miles leads the case. This is the second book in the series but I didn't feel like I had missed out on anything.

Kate has a lot going on in her life and she seems to be struggling but she always finds time to help others, often to the detriment of her own family time.

Kate brushes of racist remarks and battles misogynists while her personal life is threatening to derail her career as she worries that her father may be implicated in a corruption scandal.
Through Kate, Dinuka McKenzie highlights the struggle for all mothers returning to the paid workforce and the guilt this entails as they juggle being a wife, mother, daughter and employee.

Detective Kate Miles is a skillfully developed character; she makes bad decisions, thinks with her heart and struggles with the challenges life throws at her.
Taken is a well-rounded crime, mystery with themes of domestic abuse and the overwhelming expectations of motherhood.
Taken, book two in the Kate Miles series, is a fast paced and deftly plotted police procedural that reads well as a stand-alone.

I am pleased to have found a new series to follow with a relatable protagonist at its heart.

My rating 4/5       ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Dinuka McKenzie is an Australian writer. Her debut crime novel, The Torrent, won the HarperCollins Australia 2020 Banjo Prize. Her then-unpublished manuscript Taken was longlisted for the 2020 Richell Prize. When not writing, Dinuka works in the environmental sector and volunteers as part of the team behind the Writers Unleashed Festival. She lives in southern Sydney with her husband, two kids and their pet chicken.


Sunday 19 February 2023

Book Review: Retribution by Sarah Barrie



Sarah Barrie

Once a vigilante, she's now a cop....who doesn't play by the rules
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 30th November 2022
Series: Lexie Winter #2
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Pages: 347
RRP: $32.99 Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Retribution

Retribution is book two in the Lexi Winter series and opens with Lexi newly graduated from the Police Academy. Even though Retribution can be read as a stand-alone I would recommend reading Unforgiven as it will give you a good grasp of who Lexi is and where she has come from.
Currently assigned to Wyong Police Station, Lexi is hell bent on bringing down a notorious drug family, single-handedly if need be.
Retribution isn't quite as disturbing and hard-hitting as Unforgiven and starts off as a bit of a slow burn. I was wondering if it was going to match up to Unforgiven. I needn't have worried. As the story progresses the pace quickens and the tension rises, along with the body count.
Lexi plays by her own rules and everyone else has to fall in line. She gets results!
I really enjoyed the setting of Wyong, Woy Woy and Wondabyne, on the New South Wales central coast, as I know these areas and could picture them.
There are two cases under investigation; one is the murder of a building company owner and the other is bringing down the drug empire.
I thought it would be hard for Barrie to follow with another crime thriller that's as gritty and suspenseful as Unforgiven but when the tension in Retribution hits out of nowhere and the twists start coming all I could think was, Sarah Barrie has done it again!  
My rating 4.5/5       ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
About the author
Photo credit:Goodreads
Sarah Barrie is the author of nine novels, including her bestselling print debut Secrets of Whitewater Creek, the Hunters Ridge and Calico Mountain trilogies, and a new crime series starring Constable Lexi Winter. In a past life, while gaining degrees in arts, science and education, Sarah worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer and a magazine editor, before deciding she wanted to write novels. About the only thing that has remained constant is her love of all things crime.
Her favourite place in the world is the family property, where she writes her stories overlooking mountains crisscrossed with farmland, bordered by the beauty of the Australian bush, and where, at the end of the day, she can spend time with family, friends, a good Irish whiskey and a copy of her next favourite book. 

Winner of a copy of Crows Nest announced!!


A huge thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway for a paperback copy of Crows Nest by Nikki Mottram.   The giveaway closed on the 18th February 2023 and the winner was randomly selected (using Random org) from all correct entries. 

Congratulations to........  Madison Cutler
The winner has been notified and has seven days to provide a mailing address.
Thank you to University of Queensland Press and DMCPRMedia for sponsoring this giveaway. 
Please check under the Giveaway tab for more great giveaways! 

Monday 13 February 2023

Book Review: Twenty-Six Letters by Charlotte Nash

Twenty-Six Letters


Charlotte Nash

A bundle of secrets.
A mother she never knew.
A future she never dreamed. 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication date: 2nd August 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 424
RRP: $32.99AU Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 

My review of Twenty-Six Letters

Twenty-Six Letters is a heartfelt mother/daughter relationship that plays out posthumously as Wilhelmina (Wil) gets to know her mother through letters she wrote before she died.

The story opens with a 30 year old Wil. She is a bit of a mess, partying too hard and unreliable. She always  seems to be in some sort of trouble and her father has had enough. He threatens to kick her out if she messes up one more time. Well you can guess what happens here.

I felt sorry for Will who had lost her mother at a young age and she felt that she didn't fit in with her family. But I could also understand her father's frustration.

When Wil comes into possession of the letters, which were supposed to be given to her one a year but somehow got misplaced, the story moves to her mother and her life growing up. 

I didn't really connect with the letters and how each year the mother presumed she would know how Wil felt and what she was going through. I really didn't like how the mother kept putting down Wil's father in the letters. This was the man that had brought her up since she was five and patiently put up with all her nonsense. It made me quite angry.

Wil follows her mother's letters back to a gorgeous little country town in England where her mother grew up. I loved this part of the story with the Lord of the area and all the country folk knowing exactly who was coming and going and what was happening. The ending was predictable, but I do love a happy ending!
my rating 3.5/5   ⭐⭐⭐½
About the author
Credit: Goodreads
 Charlotte Nash is the internationally published author of seven contemporary novels, most recently Saving You and On a Starlight Ocean. She has degrees in engineering and medicine and a PhD in creative writing, which used the neuroscience of reading to understand how cleverly-crafted technical fiction appeals to our narrative brains. As a firm believer in unlikely pairings, she is an engineer by day and writes smart, unusual love stories by night. She has taught writing through The University of Queensland, QUT, Queensland Writers Centre and the University of Technology Sydney.


Saturday 11 February 2023

Book Review & Giveaway: Crows Nest by Nikki Mottram

Crows Nest


Nikki Mottram

A Dana Gibson Mystery 
Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Publication date: 31st January 2023
Genre: Crime / Rural
Pages: 320
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via DMCPR 

My review of Crows Nest

Crows Nest is a compelling rural crime debut from Nikki Mottram placing her firmly on the list of notable Australian crime writers.
I was pulled into the story right from the start. Dana Gibson is a relatable, flawed character. She has had a few life altering dramas and instead of facing her demons she decides to flee from Sydney to Toowoomba. 
Dana is a community services worker, well respected in Sydney, but she has to prove herself before she is trusted in this small country town.
I really connected with Dana. She acts on impulse, often regretting her actions later. She is quick to snap and slow to open-up which makes people wary of her.
Crows Nest is a police procedural with a different twist. Not happy with the way the police are handling the murder investigation Dana starts her own investigation, evidence board and all. I loved Dana’s little side-kick and mini sleuth Angus, her 11 year-old neighbour. He was a clever little thing and had a sad story of his own.

Crows Nest has themes of dysfunctional families, small town secrets and lack of resources for community workers

Nikki Mottram has written a clever mystery deeply rooted in its small town setting.
I am looking forward to the second book, Killarney.
My rating  5/5   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author 

Nikki Mottram writes crime fiction and has a background in child protection. She has a psychology degree from University of Queensland and has worked in London and Australia in positions protecting and promoting the welfare of children at risk of harm. She has been published in the Boroondara Literary Awards anthology and shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize and the Hal Porter Short Story Competition. In 2018, she was the recipient of a Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers' Centre Fellowship. She grew up and resides in Toowoomba, and brings to her work an understanding of rural communities.


Thanks to DMCPR and University of Queensland Press I have one paperback copy to give away. Entry is via the form below. Entries close at 6pm AEDT on 18th February 2023.
This giveaway is now closed and the winner was announced HERE

Friday 10 February 2023

Book Review: The Journey by James Norbury

The Journey


James Norbury

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon 
Publisher: Penguin Australia

Imprint: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 18th October 2022 
Pages: 160
RRP: $35.00AU Hardcover
Source: Beauty & Lace Book Club
The following review appeared first on Beauty & Lace Book Club 

My review of The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon

This is the perfect book if you are having a bit of self doubt or wondering where you are heading in life. James Norbury has used Buddhist philosophies as Big Panda guides Tiny Dragon through some of life's trying moments. Having a friend by your side makes change just that little bit easier.

My granddaughter grabbed this book and read it as soon as it arrived. She loved the enchanting story about Panda and his best friend Dragon.

The Journey is not aimed at one particular age group, its appeal is all-inclusive.

For children it's an exciting adventure story. For adults it is a story of friendship, overcoming adversity, being in the moment, acceptance, gratitude and weathering life's storms.

The Journey is a beautiful book that would make a precious gift for both child and adult. Charmingly presented in hardcover with gold foil features and a ribbon bookmark. The illustrations move from black and white sketches to colour water washes to tie in with the mood of the story.

This is the second book in the Big Panda and Tiny Dragon series and I'm eager to get the first.

My rating 5/5  πŸΌπŸ‰πŸΌπŸ‰πŸΌ



Friday 3 February 2023

Book Review: Broad River Station by Fleur McDonald

 Broad River Station


Fleur McDonald

Broad River Station is Fleur McDonald's 20th Novel and a ripper of a read! 

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication date: 1st November 2022

Genre: Contemporary/Rural/Crime

Pages: 368 

RRP: $29.99 Paperback

Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Broad River Station

Broad River Station is another engrossing, rural set, police procedural from Fleur McDonald.
Wanting to be near her elderly grandmother, newly graduated police officer Mia Worth has moved to Broad River and is about to start at her first station as the only female with five male police officers.
Mia is treated as a liability, not only because she is a female but also a rookie.
I love how Fleur writes strong female characters in male dominated roles and we see them push ahead through prejudice and adversity.
A few different plot lines are introduced in Broad River Station, all relevant to rural communities; Mia's grandmother has dementia but in moments of lucidity she alludes to a mystery surrounding Mia's father, an organic farmer's crop is sabotaged and a young child goes missing.
I enjoyed getting to know Mia and how she fits into Broad River and nearby Burra. Det Dave Burrows is a secondary character but it was nice to have some familiar faces pop in with Dave and Kim, Jack and Zara. I love how Dave gives advice to both Jack and Mia and encourages them in their jobs, just like Bob did with Dave when he was younger.
Broad River Station is another fantastic read from Fleur McDonald. If you haven't yet gotten into Fleur's books, what are you waiting for!!!
Rural crime at its best. Fleur knows farming and the rural setting and it's evident in her stories.  
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author
Fleur McDonald has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she went jillarooing, eventually co-owning an 8000-acre property in regional Western Australia.
Fleur likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experience in rural Australia. She has two children and an energetic kelpie.
 Other books I've reviewed by Fleur McDonald

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Book Review: The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

The Work Wives


Rachael Johns

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 3rd November 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 528
RRP: $32.99 Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Work Wives

The Work Wives is narrated through three very different, yet connected, women. Debra, a single mum in her early 40's, Quinn, a 27 year old dating app addict and Ramona, Debra's 15 year old daughter.
Debra and Quinn work together and are best friends. 
When the tall and handsome new Director of Sales is introduced Quinn is instantly keen to get to know him better, only Debra already knows him, they have history.
Being a SAHM for decades now I'd never heard the term 'work wives' but I enjoyed the pair's work antics with emails and meet-ups in the photocopy room. I liked that Johns included an age-gap friendship between Debra and Quinn and how they encouraged each other to do things differently. But it wasn't all plain sailing between them, there was also plenty of friction which kept the story interesting. I also enjoyed the generational friendship between Quinn and her elderly neighbour. Quinn really was an exceptional character, young and full of life but also caring and a little lost.
With themes of romance, misogyny, bullying, teenage dramas, cancel culture, gaslighting, friendship and social media Rachael Johns has packed a lot of drama into The Work Wives. It's a long book but it moves along at a fast pace.
It might come across as a little contrived but I loved it anyway and couldn't put it down, reading late into the night.

My only let down was the plot twist - I may have even groaned.

I loved that it was set in my home town of Sydney, with lots of local landmarks, and I think Rachael did a fabulous job of the setting. 

My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a Diet Coke addict, a cat lover and chronic arachnophobe. She is also the bestselling, ABIA-winning author of The Patterson Girls and a number of other romance and women's fiction books including The Art of Keeping Secrets, The Greatest Gift, Lost Without You, Just One Wish, Something to Talk About, Flying the Nest and How to Mend a Broken Heart. Rachael rarely sleeps, never irons and loves nothing more than sitting in bed with her laptop and imagining her own stories. She is currently Australia's leading writer of contemporary relationship stories around women's issues, a genre she has coined 'life-lit'. Rachael lives in the Swan Valley with her hyperactive husband, three mostly gorgeous heroes-in-training, two ravenous cats, a cantankerous bird and a very badly behaved dog.Rachael loves to hear from readers and can be contacted via her website rachaeljohns.com. She is also on Facebook and Instagram.